Over the years, nonprofits have experienced a lot of technological innovation that has really changed the way they approach their work. Raiser’s Edge brought extraordinary sophistication to (and established new standards for) fundraising data management when it first debuted. RE NXT took established Raiser’s Edge constructs to the Cloud, and allowed nonprofits to focus on how they work, not where they work. Peer-to-peer fundraising evolved and was changed forever by solution providers such as Kintera and Convio. And Salesforce’s entry into the sector pushed everyone to think of openness and expansion in whole new ways.
Today, there’s another trend we’re noticing, one that we’re particularly excited about, and one that brings the best aspects of these prior evolutions together: solution vendors across the sector are embracing the idea of integrating systems in unprecedented ways, which means that nonprofits can more effectively utilize the combination of tools that best suits their needs. And we think that’s fantastic.
Omatic, its partners, and other voices in the nonprofit tech sector have written blogs and conducted webinars focused on the ways that organizations using both Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce can leverage integration to exchange data between the two systems, to the mutual benefit of users of both applications. Up until now, this was posed only as a concept, an idea, or a beautiful dream that never quite looked the same in real life as it does in the imagination. Historically, the difficulties of integration definitely drove interest in single do-all solutions. But that didn’t really pan out so well either – no solution has been able to meet all needs.
Real, Real-Time, Integration Is Actually Possible
For more and more organizations, using Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT and Salesforce in concert is an excellent option for getting closer than ever to realizing the coveted 360-degree view of constituent relationships. And we’re finally in a place where the technology to effectively integrate these two stalwart systems is truly attainable.
If you’re committed to Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT as your fundraising CRM database, but your program work relies on a robust call center and volunteer management, you might use Salesforce for those efforts and capture key data in both systems. If you need to track outcomes of constituent services or conduct case management more efficiently, Salesforce might be an excellent solution. Inevitably, there will be people interested in your programs who also make donations – or who are great donor prospects – and those people might be in your Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT system. The shifts in today’s technology mean that you can utilize both systems, exchange germane data, and be more effective across the board.
Which brings us to that point in the story right before all your dreams come true when it’s important to ask yourself: ‘Wait, do I actually want all my dreams to come true? What will I do if that happens?’
What would I actually do if I were able to share data easily between my systems?
Yes! That is the key question that has always been ‘out there’, but now there are practical integration solutions that make it worth answering. And that is where the work comes in. But trust us, the work of figuring out how you want to use your data is so much more fun than cleaning up duplicates or manually entering data into multiple systems.
Questions to Ask
Before you even get to the technical issues, figuring out how to most effectively integrate data will work best if you can hammer out a few key non-technical things first. Here are some questions your organization will want to consider when planning an integration between Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT and Salesforce:
How would a fuller picture of your constituents help you to meet your organization’s goals faster or more effectively? What strategies require, or would truly benefit from, integrated data? And which data should be exchanged?
Even though integration is available, you don’t need to bring every data element into both systems. There would be too much clutter to deal with and you’d end up ignoring all of it. The good news about the technological evolution here is that you can be nimble. Start by thinking of some simple data points from each system that might truly help you achieve a strategic goal and start measuring. If that effort leads to more questions, then carefully choose additional data points and add them to the mix. At the same time, be honest about the great ideas that your organization has neither the resources nor the will to accomplish and keep those off the priority list when thinking about integration requirements.
How do the features of Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT and Salesforce align with your users?
Salesforce can do a lot of what Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT can do, though the reverse is not always true. However, RE is really good for the complex gift management needed to support nonprofit fundraising (and fund accounting) and for traditional direct marketing programs, among other fundamental functions. Those realities make the lines of delineation pretty clear for some nonprofits. But you should still consider the features sets of both systems carefully, in view of your organization’s particular needs and user base. Do you have any unique fundraising approaches that could benefit from the customizability of Salesforce? Does it make sense to manage some volunteers in Salesforce and others in RE, because of the departments with whom they work? Would your organization utilize reports more effectively from one system or a combination of both? Too often, these questions are overlooked as people make quick decisions without stepping back and identifying the more effective strategy.
How will shared data change the way we work together?
It’s wise to think about the nuts and bolts of data governance and how decisions will be made when you’re building your integrations and beyond. Who will make the decisions regarding data use? How will records be matched and duplicates be reconciled? Will everyone get to see everything? These topics and issues will come up as part of any project to integrate your systems. The important thing is not to ignore them, but rather, to gather as much relevant input as possible and be decisive. Your data can either effectively support or derail the way you work. How you manage an integration initiative will determine which direction you take..
The Bottom Line: Integrating Data Drives Success
The most important takeaway from all this is still very basic: Integration is possible, and can have a powerful impact on how you deliver your mission. To be successful you need to effectively define your goals and strategy first, then find the right technology solution. In the past, we had to make trade-offs — primarily having to live with a single main CRM database instead of being able to effectively leverage a ‘best of breed’ approach. Going forward, and by leveraging advanced integration solutions, we now have more technology choices that could have a dramatic effect on our organizations. It’s important to start considering what is possible and how this new reality could influence your organization’s future.
Open Discussion on Integration
We understand that integrating different systems is complex, and foreign to many organizations. There are as many possibilities as there are pitfalls when trying to deploy a technology solution that serves unique needs. To find out where to begin with Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT and Salesforce integration and if it would benefit your nonprofit, contact us today!
Please also stay tuned for our upcoming webinar on Raiser’s Edge / RE NXT and Salesforce integration. Bring your most basic or complex questions on integrating some of the most powerful tools serving the nonprofit community.
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Stu Manewith, CFRE joined Omatic Software six years ago and serves as the company’s Director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy. In that role, he is Omatic’s nonprofit sector domain specialist and subject-matter expert and is responsible for actively promoting and demonstrating Omatic’s position as the nonprofit industry’s leading partner in the areas of data health and integration. Prior to Omatic, Stu spent 13 years at Blackbaud, working with Raiser’s Edge, Financial Edge, and Blackbaud CRM client organizations as a consultant, solution architect, and practice manager. Previously, Stu spent the first half of his career as a nonprofit executive, fundraiser, and finance director, working in both the healthcare and arts/cultural arenas of the nonprofit sector. He holds business degrees from Washington University and the University of Wisconsin, and he earned his CFRE credential in 1999.